Research and Professional Development Planning (RPDP)

Research and professional development planning

Research and Professional Development Planning (RPDP) is an integral part of all research degree programmes at UCD. Its purpose is to ensure that your work is clearly focused on achieving your research and professional goals. The RPDP plays a major part in informing the trajectory of your research and in your training and development as a researcher. Your RPDP will help you develop key skills that will be invaluable for both your current research and your future career prospects. The RPDP Record captures the outcomes of meetings between you and your Research Studies Panel (RSP): that is, your current research plan, the progress you have made in your research, future plans, and a record of credit awards and any professional development activities undertaken.

Central to your programme are regular meetings with your supervisor and RSP to discuss your research, your professional development and progress in achieving your goals.

RPDP forms are online and accessed through your SISWeb account. The path is SISWeb/Registration Fees & Assessment/My Thesis & Supervisors. At this location, there is the Research & Professional Development Section where you can initiate a new RPDP form or revise an existing one; previous RPDP forms are stored here, too. The RPDP form is in two Parts: Part 1 is completed by you prior to the RSP meeting; Part 2 is completed by the Chair of the RSP after each meeting.

Part 1 asks you to outline your research plan, your research progress, plans for the future, credits awarded to date and any professional development activities undertaken. When completing Part 1 of the form you can save your work using the ‘Save’ button and return as often as is required. Once Part 1 is complete you can then submit the form online using the ‘Submit’ button. When Part 1 is submitted, it will be visible to the members of your Research Studies Panel and they will receive an email alert that it has been uploaded.

An RSP meeting will be held to provide advice, monitor your progress and make recommendations on your research trajectory.

Part 2 is completed by the Chair of the RSP and outlines the consensus of the RSP on your progress to that point as well as their recommendations going forward. It is signed off by the Chair of the RSP on behalf of the RSP members. You will receive an email prompting you as the final signatory to sign off on the content.

While research and professional planning is required for all research degree students, for PhD students and Professional Doctorate students, the RPDP Record is a mandatory input to the Stage Transfer Assessment. The Stage Transfer Assessment determines:

  1. if you are a doctoral student, whether you progress from Stage 1 to Stage 2 of your doctoral studies
  2. if you are a Research Master's student seeking to transfer to a PhD, whether you meet the criteria to transfer.

In each case, the RPDP form from the RSP meeting immediately prior to the Stage Transfer Assessment will need to be provided. See Policy on Progression in Doctoral Programmes for more information on the Stage Transfer Assessment.

The purpose of your Research Plan is to provide you with a clear research focus and a coherent work programme. A well-structured Research Plan will enable you to review your progress and adjust your objectives as your research evolves. Keeping your Research Plan up to date will help you in writing progress reports, preparing presentations and publications, drafting funding applications and completing your thesis.

The objectives and goals you set yourself in your plan should be specific, challenging and achievable within a defined timeframe.

There is no such thing as an ideal research plan, but common to all is structure and timeframe: research is always planned in stages, each designed with some idea of how long it will take. There are two critical things to remember when you begin to design a research plan.

First, your supervisor is there to advise you. They will guide you as you formulate your plan, and within the first trimester of your PhD you should be able to identify major tasks and work out the order in which they should be done. Members of your RSP will also discuss your plan at RSP meetings.

Second, research plans change as research progresses. The secrets of a successful research project are (a) the realisation that a research plan is always a work-in-progress and (b) the ability to adjust a project’s structure and timeframe without losing sight of its goals.

At the start of your studies, your emphasis will be primarily on devising, developing and implementing your research. As you progress, your focus will also encompass the dissemination of your research results and the preparation of your thesis.

When developing your research plan, it may be helpful to consider the following:

Essential elements of a research plan

  • Your research question or hypothesis and its importance
  • Ensuring that all or any ethical requirements associated with your research are addressed
  • Reviewing the relevant literature
  • A plan of how you intend to investigate your hypothesis and interpret your results
  • Reviewing your findings and incorporating any changes to the research plan
  • Drawing conclusions
  • How you intend to disseminate findings

Disseminating your research

  • Where do you intend to present the results of your work?
  • Where do you intend to publish the results of your work?

Writing up your thesis

  • Have you prepared a thesis plan?
  • Are you familiar with how best to present your work in thesis form and what the requirements are?
  • What progress have you made in writing chapters of your thesis?
  • When do you hope to have your first draft completed?
  • When do you hope to submit?

You will also need to set a timeframe for each of the aspects outlined above. Devising a realistic schedule for each step on the way is extremely important if you want to complete your PhD within the timeframe required.

On leaving UCD with a research degree it will be expected that, in addition to having produced a body of research, you will also have developed a set of generic and transferable skills that will enhance employability and career development.

UCD offers a range of opportunities to acquire transferable skills. We support a model of developing career skills in your research programme and from your research programme. Research degree holders are well positioned in an increasingly cross-sectoral market that emphasises flexibility, creativity and critical thinking. As a graduate research student, you will be supported by your Supervisor/Co-supervisor and RSP in identifying your educational training and personal and professional development needs. During the course of your research studies, you will have opportunities to acquire new skills and to hone existing ones.

You can consult the HEA’s National Framework for Doctoral Education, which sets out the core principles of doctoral education in Ireland. In line with these principles, UCD strongly supports and encourages professional skills development. This includes opportunities to explore transferable skills training as well as potential employer networking and engagement.

UCD’s Careers Network offers a range of valuable support services, including a dedicated Career and Skills Consultant for graduate research students.

First, identify the relevant skills you require for effective research and for your potential career paths. Every discipline area has its own particular suite of skills, and you may already have acquired many of these as a prerequisite to enrolling for a research programme. However, in order to develop career flexibility, it is advisable to acquire additional transferable and cross-sectoral skills.

You are encouraged to take modules and attend relevant workshops outside your School or College. You should consider identifying opportunities in the following broad areas:

  • research skills
  • ethics and social understanding
  • communication and educational skills
  • personal effectiveness and development
  • team working and leadership
  • career management, in line with the IUA Skills Statement

UCD Graduate Studies has developed a handy Self-assessment Sheet that will help you think through what skills you may need and to what level of accomplishment.

Please go to the Graduate Studies Training and Development webpage for further information on training available in the University.

Getting to grips with your RPDP (video recording)

The recording below provides an introduction on how to start completing your RPDP.

Note: Since this video was recorded, the process for completing the RPDP has moved online. However, much of the information provided in this video is still relevant. For further details about accessing your RPDP via your SISWeb account, please refer to the RPDP Supporting Documentation - Guide to online RPDP form.

Personal data protection principles

Please also ensure that you familiarise yourself with the personal data protection principles and advice on how to safely store your data on UCD IT Services website.



You are only required to submit Part 1 and 2 of the Research and Professional Development Planning Form (RPDP). The supplementary documents provided on this page are for reference/support only and it is in the student’s disposal to use them or not.

Please note that you can use the Research and Professional Development Planning Form (RPDP) for every meeting with your Research Studies Panel. Only the RPDP Form from the most recent meeting of the Research Studies Panel (RSP) will be submitted to the Transfer Assessment Panel.

Every research student can make use of the RPDP document. Please note that if you are transferring to a PhD programme, submission of the RPDP to the Transfer Assessment Panel is mandatory.

Your RPDP is a confidential document and is normally only available to your Supervisor and RSP. However, there will be circumstances where a School Administrator, Head of School and/or the Governing Board may also require access to this form.